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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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A trip to Memphis Tennessee a few years back continues to pay dividends and can I thank a number of American friends for this recommendation. The Civil Wars are a duo consisting of John Paul White, hailing from Florence, Alabama and Joy Williams, originally from Santa Cruz, CA, but now residing in East Nashville. They have already altruistically shared a free concert album "Live at Eddie's attic" which remains available on their My Space site for those of you seeking fine new music and now we have this wonderful debut album "Barton Hollow" to delight our aural senses. The word which best epitomises this record is "passionate". Check out the performance of the swampy folk title track they unveiled on the Jay Leno show and try not to be smitten by its drive and force. There certainly is a kind of "mixed doubles" Avett Brothers quality to their music but equally, the duo evokes the fine pedigree of a Welch and Rawlings with their great singing voices and haunting melodies.

At the heart of "Barton Hollow" is the songwriting and none is finer that the brilliant alt-country ballad "Poison and Wine" possibly the finest song I have heard this year and one you should send out a search party to locate. It builds slowly and deliberately and the vocals of White, in particular, resonate with emotion, building to a lovely climax. Opener "20 years" harks bark to that great forgotten American duo the Swell Season and is a heartbreaking country lament destined to take Nashville by storm. It is a song that Emmylou Harris should record immediately. "The girl with the red balloon" has an ancient quality about it which the Fleet Foxes tapped into on their eponymous debut, while the haunting instrumental "Violet Hour" repays repeated plays. Anyone who listens to the beautiful "Falling" where this time Williams emerges as a true star, is destined to emerge with a broken heart, ditto the wistful "To whom it may concern" a rolling acoustic ballad so light it could be lifted by a breeze. All this points to the chemistry between the two singers which must suggest more than a platonic friendship bearing in mind the intensity they whip up on songs like the pure Nashville orientated "Forget me not" which had this reviewer daydreaming of fond memories of the Parsons and Harris classic partnership. A debut this good deserves wider recognition not least in recent years since like-minded bands who have ploughed this furrow such as the Everbodyfields, Bowerbirds, Anthony Da Costa and Abby Gardner have not achieved their just desserts. The Civil Wars have been described as the coolest duo since the White Stripes an​ unfair comparison since they work in very different traditions. That said anyone who listens to the Civil Wars brilliant cover of the Jackson 5's "I want you back" must regret that they are not a public limited company since you will want a share of this action.

PS - their Oct 2011 performance on Jools Holland was scintillating including a cover of "Billie Jean" and a roaring version of this albums title track. Well worth seeking out.
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on 13 April 2011
This is simply the best new country set i've heard in a long ,long time. The vocal harmonies are haunting and accompanied by sparce yet fluid arrangements that hypnotise and draw you in. As a debut album they may have just given themselves a massive task to better it with a follow up album, that said I hope they are prolific composers and that a second album won't be long. I for one will buy it. Anyone who has Duhks, Nickel Creek or Crooked Still albums must add this to their collections.
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on 15 May 2011
This is a very good 12-song album that encompasses pop, folk, Americana, classical music and blues. The songs have tunes and interesting lyrics. They are expertly performed and deliciously sung. If you liked Jenny & Johnny's I'm Having Fun Now, you will absolutely love this album.
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on 7 October 2011
I heard the Civil Wars perform Barton Hollow on Later with Joules Holland and bought this album the next day - its the best song Ive heard and I strongly recommend it to everyone!
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on 14 August 2011
It's not only the way they harmonise. It's the way Joy Williams' voice weaves around JP's lines. They both go their way but stay together. It's the quirky and often mystifying lyrics. It's the underlying humour. It's the total charisma. Oh yes, she's beautiful too but, hey, I can handle being in love.
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on 24 October 2011
...then buy the album. This was a bit of an impulse purchase to be honest. I heard them on Later with Jools Holland and was transfixed by their harmonies - truly beautiful interweaving of voices with the guitar almost a third voice adding punctuation and emphasis. I was a little worried that my favourite song on the night (their rendition of Billie Jean) wasn't on the album and I might find that disappointing. I didn't - if you like any of their songs that you've heard then the album is worth getting.

One of the reviewers here really wasn't impressed by 'I've got this friend' and I find that perplexing, wonder if they were listening to the same song as me. I find a load of English music to be horribly over-produced and it's refreshing to hear such under-stated simple elegance in any music. Still it takes all sorts; some people listen to Radio 1, which totally mystifies me.

If you go to the American version of Amazon you can listen to clips of all the tracks - worth a visit if you're not sure.
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on 15 January 2012
Really enjoyed this album despite all the massive and overblown hype.The songs and the inter-changing of the singing parts works extremely well.Some of the songs drag slightly but that is not anyway being critical of the expertise shown in their song writing.There is no doubt that their singing styles come together well and its probably safe to say that it won't be until their next album that The Civil Wars true staying power can be assessed but Barton Hollow is by all accounts a great start.
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on 6 November 2011
I bought this album on the strength of TCWs set on Jools Holland Live, which was in all respects as remarkable a debut perhaps as k t tunstall some years ago. A little research took me to find their live set, from their second ever gig in the 'Attic'. Once again I was blown away, so perhaps expectations were raised for their first studio album. Most of their self penned work here is familiar and is supported by bass, guitar piano and slide across a range of tracks. However, and quality production notwithstanding, their is something missing from these versions... and simply it is the chemistry and interplay that Joy and John display in their live work. It is not often that I would prefer a live album over a studio offering, but in this case The Civil Wars fail to deliver the heights of their live work. Hence a lower score than I had anticipated.
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on 24 June 2011
Since buying this album it's been on constant replay. Two voices that blend and bring songs to life in a way rarely heard these days. Simple vocals which touch the heart. Magic. More please!
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on 3 September 2014
Well, I liked the title track so bought the CD, then followed the soap-opera that was The Civil Wars. The harmonies are really beautiful, unnaturally close like the Everly Bros. The musicianship's excellent and the songs are never less than accomplished, I've enjoyed watching them perform on Youtube and wished I could have seen them live.

After a year or so I still play this album and really enjoy the sounds but it doesn't move me the way some music does, and I probably wouldn't have bought another Civil Wars album as one was probably enough! (My partner says the songs are all too sad for her). Look forward to seeing what they do next, though.
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